The US trade deficit grew more than expected in June as imports jumped and the gap with China continued to widen, government data released today has shown.

The country's trade deficit with the rest of the world climbed 8.7% in June to a seasonally adjusted $44.5 billion. Analysts had only expected a 3.9% increase.

The figures mark the third straight month the deficit has grown, weighing on US growth and possibly fuelling the arguments of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for protectionist policies.

It now stands at the highest level since June 2015 due to a 1.9% rise in imports to $227.7 billion and only a 0.3% increase in exports to $183.2 billion.

Imports of industrial supplies, consumer goods and capital goods all rose in June. 

Petroleum product imports jumped almost 20% to $13.3 billion due to higher oil prices.

At the same time, sales of American products overseas stalled, with exports of autos falling four percent to $12.2 billion.

In terms of bilateral trade, the US deficit with China continued to rise, reaching $29.8 billion, the highest level since November. 

US officials have routinely accused China of manipulating its currency and taking other actions to boost exports at the expense of the United States.

The US trade deficit with the European Union dipped 4.4% to $12.8 billion. The two sides are locked in difficult negotiations on a vast trade accord.

US trade with Canada was at a modest deficit of $299 million.